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Suspect’s ‘Radical’ Views Examined in Fort Hood Investigation

Gwen Ifill speaks with two reporters about the ongoing investigation into last week's attack at Fort Hood, including new revelations that the alleged shooter had ties to a radical cleric in Yemen known for his anti-American teachings.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    As military and civilian leaders were paying their respects at Fort Hood today, Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan continued to recuperate in a Texas hospital. He remains the sole suspect in last week's shootings, and investigators there and in Washington are stepping up their inquiry into his background and possible motives.

    Joining us for more on that investigation are Dana Priest, military affairs reporter for "The Washington Post," and Josh Meyer, who covers the Department of Justice for "The Los Angeles Times."

    Welcome to you both.

    DANA PRIEST, "The Washington Post": Thank you.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Josh Meyer, it turns out that Nidal Hasan has been investigated before. Tell us about that.

    JOSH MEYER, "The Los Angeles Times": Well, the FBI, as part of a joint terrorist task force late last year and early this year — actually, it's multiagency — they and the military were looking into his e-mail contacts with a radical Islamic — Islamist cleric in Yemen named Anwar al-Awlaki, who has been onto the radar of the FBI and other agencies for many, many years.

    They were trying to determine if he was plotting some terrorist attacks or the character of these e-mails. And they ultimately decided that they didn't rise to the level of suspicion that would prompt a full investigation, and the matter was dropped.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So, we know that he wrote to this imam. He — know that — we know that they — he responded. But we don't know yet exactly what the content was that investigators at the time did not think was particularly serious.

  • JOSH MEYER:

    No.

    And authorities are saying that the — at the time, they appeared to be mostly innocuous — I think the word "mundane" was used — about 10 to 20 e-mails, and that Awlaki responded to several of them, and that they said that they really saw nothing in there that was alarmist that would allow them to establish the kind of criminal predicate they could use to start an ongoing investigation.

    In hindsight now, they say that you might interpret some of those e-mails in a different way, but at the time that they had no reason to believe that anything was afoot.

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